Message: If we look at Jesus, even in the worst moment we can keep hope.
We are now entering the fifth week of our journey to hope. We have seen that the first step is opening oneself to Jesus, to his Divine Mercy. United with Jesus, we connect with every other believer. As we saw last Sunday, Jesus is the gate to the sheepfold. In him we become part of the spiritual family.
Belonging to a spiritual family does not mean smooth sailing, sweetness and light. As we see in today's first reading, conflicts arise. Because the Church is far from perfect, people become disillusioned and start to lose hope. In the church, our spiritual family, we see hypocrisy, hurt, conflict, neglect, pettiness, bureaucratic indifference, coldness and other sins. As Pastor Rick Warren says:
"Rather than being shocked and surprised, we must remember that the church is made up of real sinners, including ourselves. Because we're sinners, we hurt each other, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally."
The comedian, Groucho Marx, said that he wouldn't want to belong to any club that would let him in. Think about it. If you discovered a "perfect church" would it have a place for you?
Jesus tells us today that in his Father's house there are many dwelling places. Jesus has gone before us - by his suffering and shameful death - to prepare a place for you and for me.
Because of that promise - that great hope - Jesus can tell us, "Do not let your hearts be troubled." Notice that this is not a pious thought or a suggestion, but a command, "Do not let your hearts be troubled." What can Jesus mean? We know that even some of the greatest saints felt deeply troubled. For example, Mother Teresa faced a "long dark night."
It seems strange that she, of all people, would face deep sadness and depression. She had founded a new religious community that was growing geometrically and doing amazing work with the poorest of the poor. In spite of that success, Mother Teresa began to experience "such terrible darkness - as if everything were dead." In 1961 she had a conversation with a holy priest. He helped her realize Jesus was giving her a share in his thirst. She later wrote to her spiritual director:
"For the first time in this 11 years I have come to love this darkness. For I believe now that it it is a part, a very, very small part of Jesus' darkness and pain on earth."
When Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled," he immediately added "Have faith in God (the Father)" and in me. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta found peace by entrusting herself to Jesus.
I want to add something else. It is not easy for me because so far I have not experienced much suffering - especially in comparison with many people I have known in parishes here and in Peru. But I want to say this: Even in the midst of terrible suffering, Jesus can give an inexplicable calm. I have seen it and can only stand in awe. A young woman in Peru named Yolanda had been abandoned by her husband. She wondered how she would care for her four small children. To make matters worse she was suffering a painful ailment. I could not do much in material help, but we prayed together in front of a cross. Her two older girls began singing a hymn: "Juntos como hermanos." (Together like brothers.) In Yolanda's eyes I could see hope. After we finished praying, she said, "Usted es mi padre." (You are my father.)
Sometimes light breaks through only when darkness has become total. Think about this: Exactly when did Jesus say, "Do not let your hearts be troubled"? Not when everything was rosy, but at the Last Supper. In moments he would face betrayal, humiliation and torture by men who would laugh at him. To face such things requires hope - a hope not just for this world, but a great hope. We will talk next Sunday what a "great hope" is. And I will give you the example of a man who had that great hope and who kept a sense of humor in the midst of persecutions. That's for next week.
I would like to sum up today's message with a quote from a woman named Corrie Ten Boom. She was a Dutch woman who hid Jews during World War II. The Nazis finally caught her and sent her to the the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. Corrie Ten Boom said this:
Let me say that again: "If you look at the world you will be distressed. If you look within, you'll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you be at rest." Like Corrie Ten Boom, if we look at Jesus, even midst suffering we can keep hope. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God; have faith also in me." Amen.
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